Leanne Mary Wake

Anniversary Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Northumbria


Broadly, I am interested in timescales and causes of sea-level change, with specific focus on the following:

  • Holocene climate and the Greenland Ice Sheet (observations and modelling)
  • Glacial Isostatic Adjustment and the response of the Earth to surface mass redistribution
  • 20th century global sea-level change
  • Salt marshes as sea-level proxies


Sea-level change is a quantity that varies in both time and space.  Over 10,000 – 100,000 year timescales, orbital variations and their modulation of Earth’s climate force expansion and retreat of the ice sheets, and in turn global sea level. On timescales of decades, glaciers, thermosteric changes and ocean dynamics are more dominant. For century timescales, the driving processes of sea-level change are not well understood. Research I have been involved in demonstrated that sea level rose at a rate of 40cm per century in western Greenland during 1400-1600AD.  The same data also suggest that the western margin of the ice sheet underwent a period of reduced surface mass balance initiating around 1600AD and continuing until present– a paradox to the widely perceived climate conditions thought to characterize the Little Ice Age. This suggests that a more regional-scale climate anomaly was the driving factor behind these changes.

My future research will aim to develop a constrained mass balance history of the Greenland Ice Sheet spanning the last few thousand years using output from climate models combined with new proxy data gained from pollen reconstructions from Greenland. Research done in this area will place the recent changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet into a multi-century context and will assess the temporal and spatial reach of the Arctic / North Atlantic Oscillation and if/how it has defined the evolution of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the late Holocene.

My interest in this subject was stimulated upon completion of my undergraduate MSc. thesis in 2004, which investigated the spatio-temporal characteristics of the 20th century sea-level change in the eastern USA.  I have also been lucky enough to visit Greenland on three occasions during my time as a Ph.D  when a student. My time spent in Greenland continually serves as the motivation behind my research. 

Check out contributions by and mentions of Leanne Mary Wake on www.software.ac.uk